The gay blogosphere is a buzz with the recent revelation that (yet another) blog turned out to be an elaborate fraud. Because of these recent events, I feel it is important to offer up some honesty about my own blog. Knowing the pain and destruction that has come about from this other revelation, I feel it is only right that I am finally honest.
Here is the truth: I don’t actually look like Wonder Woman in real life. There – I said it. I hope that the healing can begin for all of us. What a weight off my back!
Such is the problem with the internets. They are more fantasy than reality. In the end, I was suckered into the fantasy of the phony blogger more than most.
I don’t want to rehash all of the details, but it basically boiled down to an individual creating an elaborate blog persona that s/he used for both a blog and private correspondence. We all marveled at how “somebody so young” and “so inexperienced” could create such dramatic and captivating prose. It turns out that “somebody so young” couldn’t. Instead, s/he cobbled together prose from other bloggers, newspaper columns, and short-stories on the internet, claiming them as hir own. This wasn't plagiarism in the sense of borrowing a clever turn of phrase or taking a writing shortcut. This blogger claimed other people’s experiences and memories as hir lived reality.
Blog readers became invested in hir stories and the appealing autobiography s/he created. Indeed, s/he walked away with some small departing gifts thanks to the generosity of hir readers.
Many people on the blogosphere are angry, most are sad, and everybody is very, very confused. The constant refrain is a desire to know the “truth.” Who is the “real” person behind the fictional one? There is evidence that this is not the first time s/he created a fake blog persona.
Conveniently, an explanation has been offered that involves, among other things, a type of dissociative identity disorder. There is also the statement that there is “one blogger out there” who can confirm the details of this new story. Perhaps this new story is the “truth,” maybe (most likely) it is not. I am not entirely sure it matters or solves the unanswered questions. The “one blogger who knows the truth” sounds like another internet phantom to me, but such is the way it goes.
Some people, though, have written me asking if I am that “one blogger” who can confirm the “reality” of the situation. They ask this question because I did have an extended e-mail correspondence with the blogger in question. Indeed, GayProf was more duped than most. With substantial embarrassment, I admit that not only did I care a lot about the nonexistent blogger, but I even developed an internet crush on that persona. Pathetic? Yes, a bit. I had no insight into the depth of deception at play. (Update: Based on comments on other blogs, it also seems that I was not alone on this).
Since the revelation has come out, I have read the comments and responses. One of the most telling pointed out that there was a certain will-to-believe among bloggers. No matter how fabulous, internet people are never “real.” Even when we do the best to present ourselves on-line, there is always a certain act of persona creation. We choose to accept these internet personas as truth because they fill some type of gap in our daily lives.
Certainly, this was the case for me. In retrospect, if I piece the story together, I notice that I was most drawn to the fabled person when I was also feeling the most lonely in my real life. I created a person in my mind as fictional as the one that the blogger created online. It was easy to fill in the missing bits of the story or to skip over the obvious inconsistencies (Of course, I have also done this same thing in real life. I am surprisingly willing to overlook untruths).
Yep, I was deceived, but I also wanted to believe at the time. I used some mighty poor judgment to be sure. In the end, though, a fake internet persona is hardly novel. If anything, the internet is supposed to be a place where we can experiment with such fantasies. I am sad that the blogger appropriated other people’s stories to live out that fantasy. That, to my mind, is the really dreadful part.
About a year ago, I started to wise up a tiny bit when things about the blogger just weren’t adding up anymore. Plans to meet in real life fell apart on two occasions, certain elements of the story were inconsistent, and I became convinced that the person on the other side of the e-mail was dishonest (though I still never imagined that the entire persona was fiction – It was that good). I stopped reading the blog or corresponding, but kept a link to the blog on my own blog because I figured the person involved was basically good, just really immature and inexperienced. That is where my (limited) knowledge ends.
Apparently the blogger continued to develop elaborate stories and events, most of which I don’t know. The blog made it again on my radar when it was supposedly the subject of an internet attack (It later turned out that the plagiarism had simply been exposed). I never knew anything about the second blog until recently.
So, where does that leave me/us? Alas, hopefully it leaves me/us a little wiser. We all like to imagine that we either have too much “street smarts” or too much “book smarts” to be fooled by such a scheme. In reality, people who pull off such elaborate masquerades have much more experience creating them than we have in detecting their deceptions. And, let's be honest, it doesn't even take all that much cleverness to pull off such a masquerade on a blog.
It reminds me of another such event in my life when I was in college. When I worked as the switchboard operator for a hospital (No, the switchboard didn't look anything like the one in the picture below. It was really just a giant phone), a new employee arrived in the accounting department. Let’s call him “Tim.”
Gosh, everybody just loved Tim. He had time and a joke for any one: secretaries, administrators, nurses, doctors, patients. His supervisors constantly praised Tim’s work and I think (though I could be wrong about this detail) that he even dated some of the women who worked there. Tim also had a sob story about why he was so grateful for his job at the hospital. You see, he had been through a messy divorce in some other state. His wife, that cruel harpy, was keeping him from seeing his own children! His job at this hospital meant so much because he was just putting his life back together. Everybody wanted to help Tim. We gave him gas money or bought him lunch. He was, after all, a great guy.
One morning the secretary in the accounting office opened the doors to find that the place had been ransacked and all of the cash that the hospital kept on-hand had been stolen. At first, everybody believed it was a simple breaking-and-entering. Well, we believed that until Tim didn’t show up to work that day or ever again. Tim, it turns out, had skipped town.
Many weeks later, the police revealed that “Tim” had stolen his real-life brother’s identity. Tim had worked in many offices across the southwest. He followed a common pattern of sticking around for a month or two, then robbed them blind. Nobody, apparently, ever imagined that Tim would do such a thing.
In terms of the blogger, I am not angry at all. In many ways, the recent events are simply a coda to disappointments that I discovered some time ago. The blog and e-mail correspondence that I had, though obviously fake in retrospect, served a purpose for me at the time.
None of the “truth” is good, of course. I hope, though, that s/he finds what ever it is that s/he wants. It would be nice, too, if s/he wouldn’t drag people into a nest of fabrications in that process. Hopefully hir motives in this case were not malicious.
In the meantime, don’t take any wooden nickels, people.